Roseanne, The NFL, and Freedom Of Speech

I am happy that ABC decided to fire Roseanne Barr. 

I am upset the NFL is threatening its players with fines for kneeling during the protest. 

Here’s how I can reconcile not feeling like a hypocrite despite those two seemingly contradictory feelings about the First Amendment.

In the case of Roseanne, I’ve long been a believer that Freedom of Speech doesn’t exclude you from Freedom of Consequence.  Especially when that speech is hate speech. 

Roseanne has a long history of making racially and culturally degrading posts, as well as a history of spreading false conspiracy theories that could potentially endanger people’s lives.  There has to be a consequence to that.

ABC, owned by Disney, has a “family appeal” brand.  That includes all kinds of families.  White.  Black.  Asian.  Straight.  Gay.  Etc.  And despite my deep reservations about the character of Roseanne Conner becoming a Trump supporter, I was actually intrigued about the latest incarnation of Roseanne (the series) dealing with the political climate of present day America.

Unfortunately, the series never quite got as good as I hoped it could be.  It seemed to desperately want to be about Darlene Conner, but instead had to pay service to it’s star and creator.  And Roseanne Barr’s acting never seemed to settle beyond “first time reading the script.”

And then, of course, Barr’s history of divisiveness emerged stronger than ever thanks to the full swing of the social media machine.  And it colored how I looked at her.  And it affected how much I wanted to tune in and support her show.

I’ve been a fan of the Roseanne show since I was a kid.  And I’m sad that, for me, its legacy has been tarnished.

Seeing Roseanne dressed as Hitler while burning human shaped cookies disgusted me.  Hearing her spread false information about President Obama and Hillary Clinton enraged me.  And this morning, seeing her label a black woman as an ape was abhorrent.

Roseanne’s Free Speech has been rooted in racism, ugliness, and hate.  And I do not blame ABC for wanting to cut ties with her.  I’m surprised they wanted to align with her in the first place, but I understand that money is money.  I’m disappointed they didn’t cut ties with her earlier.

Employers are allowed to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior of the people they employ.  I agree with ABC that Roseanne’s behavior has been inappropriate and I stand by them canceling her show.  I do wish they could have just fired her and let the show live on without her, but I suspect Roseanne owns the rights to the characters on the show, and that ABC would have to pay her for use of them whether she’s a part of the show or not.

The NFL, as an employer, has the right to decide what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior  of the players it employs.  The fact that, as an employer, they are pressuring their employees to stand for the anthem at all raises some serious questions with me about forced patriotism; but if they’ve deemed that kneeling during the National Anthem is inappropriate, that is their decision to make.

I do not agree with that decision.

I think it sends the wrong message for the NFL to threaten its players with fines if they kneel, or to tell them they can protest by staying in the locker room where they will be out of sight and out of mind. 

We can’t forget that the reason these players are kneeling is in response to racism and police brutality against minorities.

So while I respect the right of each employer’s decision to penalize its employee for what they’ve considered inappropriate behavior, I do not agree with the decision made by the NFL, and I think history will not look kindly on their decision either.

3 comments

  1. By the same measure that ABC has every right to fire Rosanne for her comments, I have the right to refuse to watch their free-speech-suppressing “Family-Style” “Values Oriented” saccharin edited content and Disney and my affections have long since parted ways. When Big Moneyed corporations get to decide who can say what and when and where they can say it, it is time to scrap the constitution. If people don’t like hate speech they can tune out. But hate speech is protected speech unless it advocates for violence or illegal activities. I am afraid that in modern day America people are choosing their “Hate Speech” and using it when convenient. Case in point: The “Hate Speech” being used and promoted and even accepted on a lot of Trump Hating Liberal media outlets. Just sayin!

    Like

    • You absolutely have the right to watch and support whatever you chose to.

      I do disagree with you in terms of corporations being able to decide whether the conduct of their employees is acceptable or not for them. I’m a teacher, and I fully understand I can’t show up to work with profanity on my shirt. It’s my freedom of speech, sure, but as an employee of my school, I am beholden to the code of conduct that I signed when I was employed by them. That’s not the same thing as scrapping the constitution.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Corporations are, indeed, privileged to control the speech of their employees while on their premises and while acting in a manner to represent them. That is a fact that we are stuck with. I am not happy with that situation but that is the situation we have to deal with.

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